Thursday, July 28, 2011

Busy Just Being

After busily crafting in preparation for an Arts/Crafts show last weekend, I have finally put away the yarn/fabric/rickrack/etc. that has been cluttering our downstairs for months. My yarn basket now holds the makings of Jude's Waterhorse Sweater, yarn for Margot's Fall/Winter sweater (pattern yet to be chosen), my birthday socks (guess I'll wear them for my 38th...) and a half-made Sushi Wallet (from a kit by One Stick, Two Sticks). I'm amazed at the joy I am getting from knitting for myself, with no deadline in mind. I am determined to say "No" to special knitting requests until these projects are DONE!

Scotian Silk in "Jamaica", by Fleece Artist.

Summer is meandering along. Some weeks are sweltering, others require me to wear a hoodie in the early mornings. We go to swimming lessons when the weather is fine, the library when it is not. We've been picking zucchinis and raspberries, and enjoying the beautiful produce from our friends, the CSA farmers. We're a few weeks away from our first family camping trip, and have our nieces visiting for this week.

I'm reading at least two books right now. One is "A Cold Night for Alligators", the first novel written by a university friend, Nick Crowe. I was delighted to see his face on a poster for our local author's festival, and had the pleasure of seeing him again for the first time in 17 years, and hearing him talk about the writing process. The book is a wonderful read so Canadian writers and order it online!

I'm also reading "Howl's Moving Castle" by Diana Wynne Jones, recommended to me by a staff member at Chapters. This was written before the Harry Potter series, and is a meandering tale of witchcraft, wizardry, and a castle that floats around above the hills with a magic door that opens upon different places depending on how you turn the knob!
Thanks, Amazon, for the image!

I'm working hard at summoning the enthusiasm required to begin preparing our kitchen for a simple (read: cheap) makeover in the fall, as well as a mini-home renovation that has me excited. Time to step away from Blogworld once more, and focus in on the fleeting days of summer. I have NO children in diapers for the first time in 6 years, and feel a surge of delight every time I see this diaperless, bathing-suit-clad bottom

...and hear the words, "Mommy, my need pee!"

I may pop in now and then between now and September, when inspiration strikes. And I'll be visiting YOUR spaces when I get the time. Enjoy the fleeting joys and beauties that summer brings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sand Crafts: Part 2

When we finished our sand castle craft, I had a messy table and bowlful of glittery sand...

I recognised it as an opportunity for an unplanned, spontaneous, and especially QUICK craft! If you have multiple children, you know the challenge of finding a craft that works for everyone...not too hard for the littles, not too boring for the elders! This craft fits the bill.

You will need:
  • blue watercolour paint
  • watercolour paper
  • glue, slightly thinned with water, OR Mod Podge
  • brushes
  • sand, sifted, with glitter added in for fun (optional!)
  • craft paint, various colours

Paint a whole sheet of watercolour paper with blue watercolour paint.

Using the watered-down glue from the sandcastle craft, paint the bottom part of the paper.

Using a finer brush, paint a sandcastle shape.

Sprinkle it all with sand, then gently shake off.

We did the whole thing on wet paper...the sand stuck to everything, but once it all dried, the sand was easily brushed off. All that was left was the sand on the gluey parts!

Add a jaunty flag or two to the top of the sandcastle.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

GratiTuesday: Sacred Time

For the past few days, I've been waking up at 5:15 a.m. I'm learning to trust this new rhythm, and have adjusted my bed time to fit. One morning I did the laundry and cleaned up the kitchen floor; another, I did some ironing and blogging.

This has become sacred time for me: the air is cool, the house is quiet, and sometimes, there are gifts in store:

The view off my porch at 5:30 a.m...8 minutes later, the colours had faded.

It occurs to me that in staying up late, I have missed the gift of early mornings. It has become a time to reflect, to start the day (and the coffeepot) in peace, and to collect flowers for our table.

I love rhythm and ritual, but have all too often found myself swept up in the chaos of raising small children. My spirit knew I needed this now, and started whispering to me to get up and breathe in the quiet air of early morning.

For this, I am truly grateful.

For what sacred time alone do you give thanks?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sand Crafts: Part 1

To create a sweet sandcastle that no wave will wash away, you will need:
  • sand
  • gold glitter (optional)
  • white glue, slightly watered down (or Mod Podge, left as is!)
  • a brush
  • paper tubes (from toilet paper or paper towel)
  • small twigs, and small amounts of coloured paper
Sift the sand to clean out any rocks and twigs. Add optional glitter.

Using scissors, cut tubes into different heights, then cut little "turrets" into the tops.

Cover tube with glue, then roll in sand (didn't manage to photograph this step: picture one mama, and three kids with glue and sand on their hands!).

Cut little triangles out of paper, and glue on twigs.

Set everything aside to dry!

Glue everything together (I used WeldBond); secure with clothespins till it is all dry.

Display artistically for a lovely indoors beach scene!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Something Pretty, Something Blue

It's July in Ontario. It's scorchingly hot. Ridiculously, indescribably hot.

Instead of posting pictures of my wilty, sun-stroked kids or of my frizzy hair and new crop of freckles, enjoy this photo of a queenly hollyhock. I'm too hot to post anything else.

The Land

July in the Ottawa Valley. The sky is at its biggest and bluest, the clouds are at their puffiest, and the greens are at their greenest.
While we complain about the record humidity and head for the beach, farmers are hard at work, cutting and baling hay.

The corn is working its way towards being as high as an elephant's eye.

And the only witnesses to my forays across the road and through grassy ditches, camera in hand are

these curious bovines.

This is the landscape I crave when I'm far from home, and every July I'm reminded why I've chosen to live here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Great Pretender

*Dear Readers,
I wrote the following post a few months ago, then chickened out when it came time to post. Re-reading it now, I smile at that...because don't we all pretend, even just a little bit, in our blogs? That we're always crafty, that our houses are pretty, that our child never wear a second-hand shirt with a (gasp!) Nike symbol on it. That we never give our kids McDonald's fries when out shopping because we didn't have the time/energy to pack a healthy snack. That our kids don't watch too many movies on days when we just want a break. Why do we do it? What are we afraid of? Read on, dear readers...this mama is months down the road from when this post was written, and although I haven't arrived yet, I'm working on it...

Women are so good at pretending.

We pretend to love playing "I Spy" in the van when actually, we'd like our kids to give us 5 minutes of peace. We pretend that we're in the mood at 11 o'clock at night, even if all we can think about is sleep, because we don't want our husbands to feel rejected. When we know company is coming we frantically clean our houses and pretend that it always looks this nice. We smile when we're sad, resist shouting when we're full of rage, and pretend that every moment of raising these demanding little souls we call our children is delightful.

I had one of those days. After spending 40 minutes gathering up library books, getting the kids dressed/combed, packing the diaper bag, and buckling all three of them into the van in the pouring rain, I couldn't find the keys. Moments like this make me feel like the top of my head might explode, like Old Faithful...a geyser of frustration and "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD" disbelief spewing up to heaven. After tearing the downstairs apart, dumping my purse three times, and scouring under the seats of the van, I conceded defeat and brought three very disappointed children back into the house.

Jude was a real pain in the neck today. After being sent to his room several times, he announced that he was going to punch me in the face if I kept "talking to him like that". My eyes almost bulged out of my head but I managed to act calm. Then I overheard him telling Violet, "If mommy tells you to do something, just punch her in the face".

If your alarm bells are going off, please note: Jude has never witnessed anyone punch anyone in the face...punching mommy in the face is not a regular practice at the Knitty Gritty Homestead.

So, while I was upset by his words, I took a few deep breaths, and thought about what the mama I'd like to be would do. I tried to be objective, and prepared myself for calm intervention. When he came near me again, I reached out to him to draw him into a hug to discuss what he was feeling today that made him so angry. He mistook my hands on his arms for me restraining him and took a swing, just barely connecting with my chin...

(Yes, dear reader, at this point feel free to be appalled, and gasp in horror)...

Usually, this would make me fly into a rage. I'd yell and send him to his room. I know this is ineffective, but I'm kind of out of tricks these days. I don't know what else to do, and feel guilty and ineffectual pretty much every day.

Instead, I started to cry. And then to bawl. It alarmed my child right out of his nasty mood, and then he started to cry, too. I told him to go into the other room, and I let it out...all the pretending.

Pretending to be calm.
Pretending to be super mom.
Pretending to know what I'm doing.

It felt good to let it out. Heck, it felt GREAT. But, I had to pull it together again when the girls started asking for stories. Deep breath, a talk with Jude (where he cried and cried with regret at upsetting me so)...

After this difficult morning, I cleaned my entire downstairs, collected and washed the eggs, sorted the laundry, cleaned the bathroom, styled my hair, and put on makeup in preparation for a visit from my in-laws, with their friends visiting from England.

Once again, I pretended: that my house is clean, that I effortlessly look nice, that my children are always happy and sweet, that our life is rurally idyllic and peaceful.

Because the reality of it is that my son always misses the toilet, and the pee runs down the sides and pools at the bottom where it dries into little crusty yellow circles. My kitchen table is used more often for crafts than for meal time, and my front doormat usually has blobs of straw mixed with chicken poop on it. My hair is usually in a ponytail, and I spent the morning yelling at my kids and crying in my kitchen.

But when everyone arrived, I looked lovely, my house was clean, my kids looked adorable and were on their best behaviour. I poured the wine, served homemade coconut milk ice cream, and listened attentively to the conversations around me.

Why do we pretend?

I can't answer for you. For me, the reasons are plenty. I pretend so that my kids will think I'm the best mommy ever! I pretend so that I don't hurt my husband's feelings. I pretend so that others won't think I'm too opinionated. Wow. Writing this post did more for me than 10 years in therapy could. I'm off to take some steps towards expressing myself more authentically, while digging a little deeper into this concern about what everyone else thinks (at the cost of my own feelings).

Are you, like me, a Great Pretender? Why do YOU do it? Does it make you happy, in the end?

PS You'll be pleased to know that after the above incident with my son, he has been much gentler in his words and actions; I think my tears shocked him so much! Manipulating your child through false emotions is not kind. However, expressing genuine distress with tears is probably the best thing I've (inadvertently) done in recent months. Things have been much, much easier since then.

GratiTuesday: Busy

When I started GratiTuesday, it was to create an opportunity for stream-of-consciousness gratitude in the midst of my busy life. I don't always take pictures of what is on my list, because it usually just flows out as I write it. Gratitude isn't something we should PLAN, but something we should just naturally feel in the presence of the many blessings in our lives.

Here's my list, in no particular order...

.: my parents' generosity in helping us purchase a second vehicle (thus saving my sanity), and in the gift of tickets to see the Lion King at the National Arts Centre. It was unforgettable, for my kids and for me, and something I would never have been able to afford.

.: the gift of music, especially since it's something I can share with my husband, with so much joy. We had our first performance together in a long while, at the Bonnechere Caves, sharing the stage with many other local talents. Later, we recorded a video INSIDE the Caves! Amazing! Visiting with friends I haven't seen in ages, listening to the water going over the Fourth Chute of the river, and seeing the almost-full moon rise conspired to create an unforgettable evening.

.: getting together with a dear friend, whose children love my children. One older, reading child plus four smaller, book-loving children equals a beautiful storytime!

.: creating my first "stock"...piles of hats, felt crowns, knitted snails, and small cotton dolls to sell at a arts/crafts show this coming weekend.

.: having captured this moment: my mother fitting Violet for a handmade dress. I can remember standing on a chair in this same kitchen, my mother expertly holding pins in her mouth as she created a hem. The added beauty of this dress is that the darker fabric is from a dress my mother made for ME when I was in Grade Two. She'll be selling dresses like these at the craft show mentioned above!

.: the joy of a really great, can't-put-it-down read: "One Day" by David Nicholls.
.: always, always, the first sip of coffee in the morning
.: Brad Pitt as Tristan in "Legends of the Fall" which I watched last night AGAIN!
.: the cool nights that follow a wicked thunderstorm
.: bellydancing outside at a local farmers' market, settling back into my body, loving the breeze swirling my skirt and the warmth of the grass beneath my feet
.: looking at my husband in the early morning as he sleeps, marvelling that he looks EXACTLY as he did 10 years ago when we met: hands crossed across his chest, so peaceful, and so beautiful.
.: as always: Jude's freckles, Violet's cartoon-character voice, and Margot's fingers holding a paintbrush.

What I'm getting around to saying is that gratitude is not some polished stone that should be taken out and admired once a week. It's something I want to feel sifting into my soul throughout the week, at random moments, especially when I'm worrying about money, or the mess of my house, or how I can get everything done "on time". Because really: there is abundant EVERYTHING in my life right now.

Grab that button and link back to me: what are YOU grateful for this week?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Silly Knits

Usually when someone asks the question, "What are you knitting?", they have an expectation of what your response will be: socks, booties, a baby sweater, mittens...

Sometimes I like to bend people's ideas of what can be created with yarn and knitting needles.

Last week I was working on snails. Little slimy bodies with antennaes (I know there's probably some more appropriately scientific name for those things with eyes), topped by a swirl of brightly-knitted shell.

They're slow to move but quick to make.

They're tiny, colourful, and just a little silly.

The question that inevitably follows my answer of "Why, I'm knitting snails/cherry tomatoes/a gnome hat!" is


The answer to THAT question is simple.

Because I can.

Friday, July 15, 2011

::this moment::

Visit to share in others' moments.

Have a blessed and bubbly weekend.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the knitty gritty kitties...

Cats are the supermodels of the animal kingdom. They are photogenic wherever you find them. They lounge, and pout, and look at you with that beautiful predatory gaze. They love to wander into photo ops, casually wrapping around an ankle or draping themselves across a still life display.
Miss Doolin is named for the tiny town in Ireland where I spent 3 happy days, wandering from pub to pub, washing my clothes in a sink and hanging them out to dry in the April sunshine. Here, she acts casual while looking fetching in her natural surroundings.

Camino, named for the fair-trade chocolate, is a most astonishing shade of chocolate brown. She came to us as a tiny kitten, hissing and spitting in a cage. I alomst gave up hope that she could be tamed, but after days of determined cuddling and contact with the kids, she has grown into the most loving, and might I add, beautiful of all our cats.
Jupiter, aka the Guardian of the Porch, has been with us for going on 8 years. He is affectionately known as "The Big, Fat Poopoo", due to his astoundingly swingy belly. He mostly sleeps and puts up with the adoration of Camino, who thinks he is her mother.

To me, cats are essential on a farm, not only to catch mice and other pests, but to sit around looking all picturesque on fence posts, on old rocking chairs, in barn doorways, and in flower beds.

Nice work if you can get it...

Like the Fonz

It's all about keeping cool. Think Arthur Fonzarelli. We're eating cool, playing cool, dressing cool.

The dress code is casual: cotton shirts or dresses, or nothing at all. Bare feet, hair tied up.

Coffee is left in the pot to cool, then shaken with milk, sugar, and ice in a big Mason jar, to be sipped all morning.
On the menu: wraps, pasta salads, veggies and tortillas and dip, popcorn.

Oh, and watermelon. LOTS of watermelon (best eaten naked, to let the juice drip down your arms, onto your chest, pooling in your bellybutton).

Last evening our friends down the road called with an invitation to come over for a swim in their pool. My response? HELL, YES! The kids cooled off, the adults had a few cool beverages, and we all just felt so...

Monday, July 11, 2011

GratiTuesday in July

It is so bleedin' hot and humid right now. I'm sweating just sitting in front of the computer, moving my fingers. I cooked pancakes at seven this morning before it really set in, and that's the last cooked food my children have eaten today. It's all about veggies, tortilla chips, hummus, and frozen fruit treats when the thermometer reads close to 30 degrees Celsius (and the weather people say it "feels like" 40 degrees with the humidity...)

So, let me think about this gratitude thing. Because I am wicked in the heat. Wicked like Miss Hannigan in "Annie", cooling off in her bathtub full of gin, shrieking "Kill, kill, KILL!" at those sweet little girls.

Okay. Let's begin.

I am grateful for

  • Carol Burnette, in her role as Miss Hannigan. Skinny legs, saggy stockings, a boa, those pencilled-on eyebrows...I'd copy her look if I could pull it off. I howl with laughter every time I see her in this movie.
  • This old quilt. I made it when I was 19, and it has travelled to many beaches and picnics over the years. It is torn. It is what I lie on when I read outside. And apparently, my children have invented a game called Quilt Monster...the quilt runs around the yard on little legs, growling with menace and a few giggles thrown in.

  • The joy of a really great read. This week it was "A Black Englishman" by Carolyn Slaughter. It explores so many themes that guarantee a good read: colonialism, racism, eroticism, marriage, the conflict between classes, travel...I felt like I was in 1920s England, and it is an unforgettable place.
  • While I'm at it, why not express gratitude for that skinny little feline that always finds herself in front of my camera? Camino (named for the fair trade chocolate!) came to us as a wild kitten, and I almost gave up on her because she seemed so untameable. Well, let's just say she's been tamed.
  • This ridiculous riot of a garden, known as the Rainbow Garden. It is at its peak right this moment, with colours of the full spectrum competing for centre stage. It is breathtaking, eye-catching, and completely full of weeds. Who'd notice them in the centre of all this colour?
  • Having a bit of one-on-one time with Jude by letting him stay up later than the girls! We played a boardgame (The Ladybug Game, great for kids 3-6), then drew silly pictures of us out in the rain and played "knots and crosses" (tic-tac-toe). He blossoms under this individual attention that he so rarely gets in the midst of his little sisters' demands.
Now, grab this groovy button, paste it on your blog with a link to mine, then add your name to the GratiTuesday list below! Share the love!

this place

A path leads through the woods, to a place where all of my children learned to splash, then wade, then paddle like mer-people.

This mama has walked this path alone, then carting a baby, then pregnant with a toddler in tow. The light begins to glimmer as we near the end of the path, then flashes off the water that greets us as we emerge from the trees.

There's a dance of glee when we are the first to arrive here, and have our pick of beach spots.

This boy stays in the water till he's wrinkled and shivering, going out where the water is deep enough for us to call, "Come back!" I thrill to see him taking to water, as he was a toddler who didn't want to splash or wade. Faith and patience brought us here, to a day where we have to coax him out of the water with watermelon.

The day before Violet was born, I walked these paths with my little son, showing him toads and the stools they sit on. Later in the day, I bared my belly to the sun and felt peace wash over me as I whispered a prayer for this new child that would soon join us. Two weeks later, we returned with our newborn daughter, and my husband lost his wedding band when he shook the sand off the old quilt. Now, she's our little Nut Brown Maid, in and out of the water like a selkie.

Days at the beach aren't so busy these days, and I can get a bit of knitting done as everyone plays,

or naps.

At this place, there are no chores to be done, no phone ringing, and no toys to fight over. There are rocks to climb on, sand to build with, logs to float on, driftwood to improvise with. Friendships grow and are forged by sunlight and water.

These are the days they will remember. I remember every moment, too.